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Nansen in Russia, PA 750 Quisling, Vidkun Gk 1_2 glassplate 2, scanned in the National Archives. The original is found in the archive after Maria Quisling in the National Library.

Nansen in Russia, PA 750 Quisling, Vidkun Gk 1_2 glassplate 2, scanned in the National Archives. The original is found in Maria Quisling's archive in the National Library.


In the years following WWI, Nansen received several big humanitarian missions from the League of Nations. As a High Commissioner for the repatriation of prisoners of war, he managed the work to exchange 430 000 war prisoners between Germany and Russia. In August 1921 the International Red Cross appointed him High Commissioner for the famine in Russia (the Nansen Aid). At around the same time, he accepted the position to become the League of Nations’ High Commissioner for Russian refugees, and it was in this context the so-called “Nansen passports” originated.

When the civil war in Russia ended with the red forces’ victory over the white in 1921, a large number of Russians chose exile over submitting to the new Soviet regime. By Lenin’s decree of  December 15th 1921, all Russians in exile were deprived of their citizenship. It is estimated that 800 000 people suddenly found themselves stateless as a result. On July 5th 1922 the League of Nations decided to encourage their member countries to issue identity cards to Russian refugees, in order to make it possible for them to go where they could find work, or where they had relatives or friends. The Nansen passport was in time recognized by more than 50 nations.

Later the agreement was extended to cover other population groups. In 1933 the agreement included Russians, Armenians, Assyrians, Assyrian-Chaldeans and Turks.



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